Community · Limerence · spiritual growth

Disney Dads and Discontentment

I look at this unframed black and white photograph of my Dad, my brothers and myself every day. It’s wedged on a shelf near my sunscreen on my bathroom counter. It reminds me that in as much as life is ever changing, some things will always remain the same.

These days, the Sailing Ship Columbia, is docked in Frontierland, and those aboard won’t see 12 flying elephants during their voyage, nor are guests of the Magic Kingdom likely to have a Disney Day with small crowds reminiscent of 1969. These are some definitive changes. But those brave enough to face the stroller-wielding families in Fantasyland will still witness Daddies nestled beside their littles in miniature mammalians while Mommies capture the moment on film.

And on the faces of many of these men, in the picture before the picture that will be posted to social media, there will still be that look of discontent. Throughout time, there have been people who have struggled with being content.

From the day of my first memory, which was around the time of this photo, my Mother has whispered to me, “You and your father are just alike..”

I’ve often wondered if Mom could really see that, or if she created the similarity with her whispers. Either way, she was right. I see it when I look at this snapshot of him with his children. It’s those uncaptured thoughts plummeting the heart downward when everything is–in actuality–just  fine. It’s struggling to be content with the same things we will one day long for; he and I cannot be alone in that one.

We aren’t bad people, and this trait isn’t a flaw incapable of being used for good. Inasmuch as the lack of contentment can lead to wandering and depression, the struggle to acquire contentment is also the core of desire and creativity. My father wanted more, and he allowed this hunger to drive him to build and create things for our family. Being discontent also leads us to the cross, time and again. It’s the desire to have the ache fulfilled from the inside that draws us to the only One who can. Thankfully, that never seems to change either.

Despite the anhedonia-like undertones that could be ascribed to this post, I’m not trying to be disrespectful; I love my father fiercely. I just don’t know how to write honestly about my parents, my childhood, or my life and not acknowledge the good, of which there was much, without also remembering the hard. I have to write what’s true, it’s that part of me that’s just like my dad.

affair recovery · Freedom · marriage · spiritual growth

When It Matters Most

I like to imagine that I have my own bodyguard. A tough guy, who is equally intelligent. Imagine James Bond, minus the misogyny, following me around and protecting me from the world’s terrors. Oh, and the terrorizing is primarily internal, so he also lives in my brain. You know…phenomenal cosmic powers…itty-bitty living space.

My brain bodyguard has been a hard working guy for the last couple years. He’s worked every weekday and then straight through the weekends. He’s even had to put in overtime, working every effing holiday. I’m sure he gets tired, but he keeps showing up with his weapons of truth and encouragement whenever I am tempted to crawl under a rock of shame. When I am eager to walk the path of comparison, he reminds me to walk the other way. In attempt to help me stand confidently, rather than quivering in a corner, he prompts me to see the truth, without relying on the lies in commonly used, but altogether false, phrases:

In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.False. We regret the times we hurt people. We regret the mistakes we made that caused distance and division. We regret our failures. That being said, we don’t live in those failures.  We brush ourselves off and keep moving forward, but we sure as hell regret hurting people. We aren’t sociopaths, for crying out loud.

tumblr_lnjyxzj72n1qm7w50o1_400Live. Love. Learn. Regret Nothing.False. Regret SOME things. We need to allow ourselves to feel the searing pain of regret without fearing that we won’t recover. Because the truth is, we CAN completely acknowledge our wrong doing, feel horrible about it AND recover. God’s work through our defects is actually the definition of grace. When our failures are transformed and we grow there is a double blessing. We are restored AND God is glorified. The learning is beautiful and the growth is immeasurable, but it is only true growth if it comes from a desire to never do it again. Which by the way, is also known as a regret.

Anyway, back to the bodyguard. Even though he is on fleek and does his job “hund-P” there’s a crack in the wall. There’s a backdoor, a way in, so to speak. You see, when I go to sleep, my bodyguard takes a break, and quite often I have terrifying, shameful dreams. I am continually assaulted and accused by a person who had every right to be enraged with my selfishness. Everything about the dream interaction is chaotic; it’s noisy and polluted. There’s rage and anger coming at me with any response I make to the person. Every apology is unwelcome. Most recently, last night that is, the person handed me a frightening book and told me I had to read it in its entirety. (Yes, this is what nightmares can look like for writers…pretty boring, I know.) The book was terrible, not because it was part of the “50 Shades of Grey” series, but rather because the title spoke of my personal weaknesses. This morning, I can’t even remember the words on the cover of the book. It was bright blue and the lettering was yellow, but the guilt inciting words have receded back into the darkest recesses of my mind. Not being able to remember them in the light of morning has given them added power over me.

When I rose, and my husband and I began to make our bed, he asked, “How’d you sleep?”

“Not good. Dreams, well, nightmares.” I answered.

“Oh no…what of?” he asked.

“Same thing. Shame. Always shame. It’s just exhausting.”

I can’t blame my bodyguard for taking a break while I am sleeping, especially when I consider how hard he works in my waking hours. I brush my teeth and look in the mirror. The bodyguard still hasn’t shown up. I am alone. As I walk out to the kitchen, I make the mistake of opening a social media app on my phone (because no one else ever does this when they are already feeling awful, right?). The very first post reminds me of a large event happening at my former church. This is a huge trigger for me. Something that I had once spearheaded before I self-sabotaged my life is right in front of me. I see tables. I see painted pillars. I see mistakes made in the name of lust. My hands are shaking, and I hear a ringing bell and a woman declares, “Shame!” (That’s a Game of Thrones/walk of atonement reference…I don’t actually own a bell.)  Eventually, I grab some hot coffee and wander out to my front porch to read and recover. The breeze has caused a film of dust to fall on my books. They are gritty to the touch. The trees are full of birds, winged rodents, making noise. They chip and sing, but it’s not my song. It’s meant for someone else. The tears are coming now–but there is still no sign of my bodyguard. Is he sick? Did someone get to him? Where is he? Why am I alone?

I don’t have a particular plan when I open my Bible, but there is bookmark shoved in the book of Isaiah. I begin to pour into the words. I’m reading and I’m praying. I’m looking for a salve. Unfortunately, the bookmark is at Chapter 28. The subtitle is Woe to Ephraim. These are not the pleasing meme worthy verses that are so often Instagramed. I read them anyway. I will not pick and choose and only focus on the popular verses.

I arrive at Chapter 29. The subtitle has only a slight variation: Woe to David’s City. The variation is not a good one in my case. I push through because, oddly, the pain of the nations is not making me feel worse. It is making me feel normal and reminding me that I am not alone. I am not the first person to make choices that brought woe. I am not the only one to mourn and lament. I continue reading for two more chapters: Woe to the Obstinate Nation and Woe to Those Who Rely on Egypt. I am just about to close my bible when I see the heading for Chapter 32: The Kingdom of Righteousness. 

13072859_10154011175611970_792728843836938532_oAs I begin to read I am no longer looking for a salve. I am just absorbing the calm that has taken over the porch. There is a quietness that I am not only comfortable with, but relishing in. A light breeze moves the wind chimes and their bell-like sounds blend with the music of the sweet birds. An altered perspective is a glorious thing. And as I read a verse jumps from the pages of Isaiah and lands on my heart.

Justice will dwell in the desert

and righteousness live in the fertile field.

The fruit of righteousness will be peace;

the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.

Isaiah 32:16-17

No, I am not three hundred miles away participating in an event, and I cannot silence every regret that surfaces while I am sleeping, but when I am awake, when it is quiet and when it matters most, I am not alone.

Freedom · spiritual growth

Two Truths and a Lie

maxresdefaultWhen my children were teenagers they taught me a game. The name of the game was, “Two Truths and a Lie” and it was a great way to pass time while waiting for our food at a restaurant, when standing in line at an amusement park, or while riding in the minivan. The conversational game was as simple as its name. One person would list two things that were true and one thing that was a lie. The others players would then guess which two were the truths and which one was the lie.

Here’s an example:

  • A)  Before my mother was married she worked as a lingerie model.
  • B)  Since marrying my husband, we have lived in 14 different homes.
  • C)  I wrote the entire first draft of my fictional manuscript, Kimly’s Trade, in 7 weeks.

So, which are the truths? And which one is the lie?

The lie is “B”. Since marrying my husband we have actually lived in 15 different homes. #packingpro

I’ve come to realize that a lot of us play a more harmful variation of “Two Truths and a Lie” and when we do, we are overwhelmed with unnecessary shame and fear. What happens is we take two indisputable truths and while pondering them, we allow a lie to seep into the mix. Here’s an example of a version I’ve been struggling through over the last couple weeks.

  • A)  My very pregnant daughter needs help with her sick toddler.
  • B)  I live over 350 miles away.
  • C)  Because of my poor choices, I had to move away and now (once again) I have failed the ones I love the most.

So, which are the truths? And which one is the lie?

In this game the lie is easy for you to spot for a couple reasons. First, you love me…or you don’t, but either way, you want to believe there is something decent about me, or you wouldn’t be reading my blog. Because of that you want me to forgive myself and move on. You want me to start new and let the past stay in the past. The second reason you can see the obvious lie is because you are not emotionally attached to my situation. It doesn’t boil your blood, which allows you to see “C” as a lie.

But what happens when it is you? How can you spot the lie when the game is boiling your blood and you don’t even realize you’re playing “Two Truths and a Lie” because it feels like you’re playing “I’m the Biggest Loser Ever…and Here is My List of Reasons Why”

Well, you’ll certainly get no sideways glances from me for playing the second game; I’ve definitely played the “I’m the Biggest Loser Ever” game myself. However, in some of my more sane moments, I’ve come to recognize a couple things about “Two Truths and a Lie.”

First of all, the lie is bathed in judgment. Look at the items on your list and pull out the ones that have judgment attached to them. Chances are they are not indisputable truths. The things that we know about ourselves to be absolute truths will only lead us to a place of judgment if we need to change the way we are living. If we have overcome, if we are making steps to move towards a better way of living, if we are honestly trying to restore what was damaged—there is no room for judgment.

None. Judgment was necessary, but the work there is done and judgment has passed.

The second thing I have come to recognize about playing “Two Truths and a Lie” is that the lie always sneaks in super-duper close to the truths. (Yes, I said duper…that’s how close it is.) Remember the original lie in the first game. I said:

  • B)  Since marrying my husband, we have lived in 14 different homes.

The true answer of 15 different homes was super-duper close. It was almost accurate. Well, that’s the way the enemy gets us to fall for lies. The lie isn’t glaringly obvious. If I had said, “Since marrying my husband, we have lived in 3 different homes”, most of you would have been able to do a quick inventory of what you know about me and saw that as a lie.  An obvious lie is easy to spot. But, when it is almost accurate, it’s tougher to discern. In my second game, I said:

  • C)  Because of my poor choices, I had to move away and now (once again) I have failed the ones I love the most.

While the answer is riddled with judgment, it also holds some accuracy. I did make poor choices, and that did set off a chain reaction leading to our relocation. But, I am not failing the ones I love the most. There is the judgement. There is the lie.

By removing judgment, the statement loses it’s power over me. It turns “Two Truths and a Lie” into, “Three Parts of an Ongoing Story”

I’m not entirely sure why I felt led to share this game of “Two Truths and a Lie” with you. Lately, blogging is a conundrum in and of itself. While writing each post, I know two truths:

  • A) I have to do what I am called to do because that’s what gives me life.
  • B) I am called to write.

But after the post has published, I usually hear a lie. It doesn’t take long before I question the validity of everything I wrote. By the end of the day I have heaped scores of judgment on myself for all that I have publicly shared through blogging. I see a list of people making huge strides to make the world a better place, and I’m not on that list. The moment after the moment I blog is pretty much a nightmare.

Thus, I make a new choice…Today, I refuse to play “Two Truths and a Lie.” I choose instead to look for a third truth, and I choose to see it all as part of an ongoing story.


Called to Recall

img_2784Recently, I met a young man named Ricardo. While chatting with the dark-eyed teenager, I made reference to Ricky Ricardo. Teenage Ricardo made little response and his blank stare sent a small warning that I may have offended him by comparing him to someone so old. Wanting him to understand the charm of this star from the era of black and white TV, I told him that Ricky Ricardo was considered incredibly handsome in his day.
Teenage Ricardo responded, “I have no idea who he is.”
Naturally, I responded with a gasp and began to trip over my words in an overly exaggerated attempt to make him recall the Latin husband from the iconic TV show.

“Ricky and Lucy! Of course, you know who he is! The husband from I Love Lucy!”

Again, Teenage Ricardo responded, “I don’t know what that is.”


Our  days are dynamic; in a moment and half, a generation of children arrives: we change some diapers, take a few pictures, teach them to drive, and then suddenly — they are grown and having their own brood of babies. It would be foolish to think that without some effort on our part, each generation would naturally know who God is and why He is the reason for the hope that we have. We have to be purposeful in communicating the goodness of the Lord, without being strident or abrasive.
Our call is to be sharing honest, transparent, everyday stories that magnify the ways the Lord has redeemed an impossible situation.

Quite simply, we are called to recall.

We bridge generational gaps with testimony; and yet, sometimes still, we refrain. Something holds us back from sharing how God has pursued us, intervened, and triumphed.

  • Could it be that in sharing how God pursued us, we cannot deny that we wandered?
  • Do we recognize that while describing how God intervened, we have to admit we were harboring sin?
  • Do we hesitate to share the story of God’s triumph, because we will also recall our own humbling?

Wandering, harboring sin, and finally humbled . . . these are painful to admit. The fear of others seeing us in that light can shame us to silence, and succumbing to those fears closes the door for others to know all that God has done, but overcoming those fears will serve a great purpose for our children and grandchildren.

Our simple stories become God’s magnificent masterpiece for future generations. Let them forget the stars of the screen, but never let them forget the One who created the stars of the Universe. 

Freedom · spiritual growth

I Can’t Smile Without You: A Love Song for My Wrinkles

11061327_10153614406241970_8900593026128905582_n“No way! You’re fifty?” the college coed working behind the counter at Sephora was practically yelling. Surely, this girl must have been a cheerleader at some point in her life, because her voice boomed off the glass counter tops and against the white walls reverberating her statement to the whole store. “You don’t even look that old! You’re older than my mom!” She gleefully handed me my bag, and I halfheartedly thanked the twenty-year-old. I left the store carrying my black and white bag filled with supplies to ward off the effects of being older than the cashier’s mom.

Aging is a mean sonofabitch. About the time a woman learns to really love herself, the hands of time have pulled and stretched her skin to where she barely recognizes her reflection.

There is a new woman in the mirror. This woman looks like my Mother. There are even moments where she reminds me of my Grandmother. Last June, I became the age my Grandmother was when I was born. My Grandmother Ruth was 50 years-old when my Father telephoned the bowling alley and had her paged so he could tell her I had arrived. My parents already had two toddler boys, so celebratory drinks were ordered and winning strikes were thrown–all in honor of this little pink skinned baby girl. In 1965, to my modest family, I was big news.

I am reminded of another 50-year-old woman who made news this year. Her name is Tess Christian. Who is Tess Christian? She is a woman whose story went viral when it was reported that she had not smiled in 40 years. At the age of ten, Miss Christian began training herself to withhold expression, thus preventing the creases that would eventually become a holding pattern for wrinkles. No need for Botox or anti aging cream. No reason for her to spend hours trolling websites or wandering the isles at Sephora—an expressionless face was her Fountain of Youth. Her story, which circulated the internet included photographs, and not surprisingly, she was and continues to be an attractive woman.

As if that justifies anything.

I began to think of interactions that are affected and altered by a smile. I narrowed it down to the three S’s: Self, Squad, Stranger.

Image-1(1)Smiling for SELF: Smiling is one of the simplest things we do to make ourselves feel better. Countless studies researching the effects of smiling have shown that smiling elevates a person’s mood and boosts their immune system. This woman’s choice to not smile, was a choice to rob herself of a happier disposition and healthier her. There is a solitude joy that comes from smiling, and she missed it for 40 years. That is a tragedy.

Smiling for SQUAD: We don’t get to choose everyone on our squad, but we are all a part of one. We have parents, friends, children, siblings, nephews and nieces. We are someone’s favorite Aunt, or someone’s silly Uncle. We have mechanics, teachers, coaches, coworkers and beauticians. We live in community with one another. The non-verbal cues we send to one another when we make a request is completely altered when it’s accompanied by a smile. When my husband walks through the door after a day spent slaying dragons, my smile says, “Everything you did was time well spent. Thank you for returning to the Kingdom where you are loved.” Yep. I say all that with a smile. To rob him of that for the sake of my own appearance would be one of the most vain things I could do.

Smiling for STRANGER: We don’t teach babies to smile the way we teach them to hold a spoon; it comes naturally. Smiling also crosses every border—or at least every border you are likely to cross—making it the universal sign of happiness. It is a nonverbal form of acceptance and to withhold it from a stranger is selfishness. Pulling those lips up into a smile may cost you a wrinkle, but it is an investment that will make the world a more beautiful place.

So, yes, I am fifty, and yes, I have wrinkles, because, honestly, I can’t smile without them.

spiritual growth

What Lies Beneath

I am blessed to have been given the opportunity to be today’s contributing author at Deeper Waters, an online sisterhood where healing words meet kindred souls. Today’s devotional is part of a series through the Book of Joshua.

Day 7 Scripture Reading: Joshua 7

Key Verse: “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.” (Joshua 7:20-21, NIV)


Not too long ago I stood on a stage holding a microphone and declaring the goodness of the Lord; when in reality, God would have been more honored had I been holding a shovel. To those around me, I appeared confident as I proclaimed my trust in the Lord’s plans and provisions, but beneath the surface I was being led by fear and lust.

Within my tent, secrets and lies covered my sins, and these things were detestable to the Lord.

When we look at the behavior of Achan, a descendant of the tribe of Judah, it’s easy to see his error and judge him for his lack of faith, but the truth is, while we may not be guilty of burying a beautiful robe beneath the ground with shekels of silver and gold, we’ve certainly attached ourselves to other things that are detestable to the Lord.

Even at the height of victory and success, we can become entranced by things within our reach and grab hold of something God never intended we touch. We allow our lingering eyes to settle too long on what we lack, rather than shifting our focus to a grateful gaze for what we’ve been given. God’s provisions seem less than enough and — with shovel in hand — we set forth a plan to fulfill our own needs.
As long as we hold onto our secret sins, we have a burden to keep them buried and hidden, covered in dark, disgusting dirt. Digging up these sins by way of confession, we can offer these soil stained parts of ourselves to the Lord.
By God’s mercy and the grace made available through Jesus Christ, we can drop our shovel and walk away from the tent of deceit.


5 Feet from the Toilet

Each Wednesday night, my husband leads a Lifegroup in our home. It’s a time where we gather with a few other people to discus Scripture, share what’s happening in our lives, and pray for one another. 

Last Wednesday night my husband concluded with this challenge, “This week I want you to list five things each day that you are thankful for.” 

“Five?!” I demanded. 

“Yes, five.” He replied. 

I went about my business the next day with little thought to his challenge, not because I didn’t regard it as worthwhile, I was just busy. I was scheduled to work a double shift at the restaurant where I am a food server. I started at noon, and I would be there for ten and a half hours. 

For about a month, my lower back had been giving me trouble, and I hadn’t done anything to find out why or make some changes. As I worked this long shift, my back pain was interfering to the point of distraction. With each passing hour the pain grew more annoying. Thankfully, one of my sweet coworkers agreed to close for me so I was able to walk out a little earlier than expected. 

At exactly 10:00 PM I drove home, where I assumed I would shuffle into the house and drop into a hot Epsom salt bath.

My back had other plans. 

With the first step out of my car I could tell something was different. I couldn’t stand all the way up, and I couldn’t sit back down. Pain that rivals the pain of childbirth shot through my back. I slid down to the ground while holding tight to the steering wheel. I tried to call my husband on his cell, but he didn’t answer, so I resorted to using the horn. Fortunately, I didn’t have to honk for very long before my husband came to my aid. 

At first it didn’t seem like there was much he was going to be able to do to assist me. All he could do was hold my arms while I lowered myself backwards so I was lying flat on the ground. 

Here’s the thing: we live in Arizona. Translated, that means we don’t have grass in our front yard. Very few homes have grass in their yards; however, the state of Arizona also doesn’t have annual drought issues. We don’t have water restrictions, and our parks are bright green all year long. 

But, I digress…where was I? Oh yes, in my front yard, lying on my back atop sharp red rocks. I began to shiver. The cold and the pain were waging war against my body. My husband tried to help me get up, but each time I made any movement the pain was agonizing, so I would scream and resist. 

Not long into this fun interaction with my husband, a neighbor came outside to move his trash can. He saw us struggling and crossed the street to see what was happening. I’m pretty sure he thought it was a domestic quarrel, which it may have eventually turned into, given a little more time.  The two men were able to carry me inside and lower me to the floor. My husband made me a blanket pallet and a stiff drink. I pulled my off clothes and slept on the floor with a heating pad. 

The next morning my back didn’t feel any different. If I laid perfectly still, I could begin to forget it hurt, but when I tried to make a minuscule move, a paralyzing sharp pain shot through my back and I would unwillingly scream out in response. My husband made me an ice pack and I laid still for as long as I could, alternating the heat and ice. 

Finally, I couldn’t ignore the greater issue at hand: I needed to pee. Somehow, I was going to have to get to the toilet. I tried to roll and to scoot. I tried raising myself to a sitting position from the left and the right. No matter what I did, it felt like a train was traveling across my spine, its metal wheels cutting into my nerves. 

My husband decided he would drag me towards the restroom. He pulled the blanket pallet across the carpeted room, while I rode in screaming pain. Once we got to the hallway, I was able to press myself up enough that I could rest on my elbows. I began a snail pace shuffle down the hallway. 

Getting this far had taken us nearly twenty minutes, during which time, my sweet husband made multiple offers to get me a container in which I could urinate. I repeatedly declined. I wasn’t going to pee anywhere except the toilet. 

As I rounded the hallway corner, I decided to use the door jam to pull myself into a sitting position. As I leveraged myself and made the adjustment, the train pain came barreling down my back. I resisted the urge to recline away from the pain, and allowed my scream to emerge while I pushed through it. 

I was practically sitting. Yes, my breathing was labored and my face was wet with tears, but I was no longer horizontal. I looked over at the toilet and I thought, “I’m just five feet from the toilet.”  

  I sat there thinking about how crazy this was. Less than 12 hours prior, I was carrying heavy trays with multiple entreés.  I didn’t get into a car accident on the way home, and I didn’t have a bad fall. I hadn’t done anything, at all. And yet now, here I was sliding across the floor wondering why our toilets are so high up off the ground. 

I rested my head against the door jam and looked at the hallway bookcase. Sitting across from me at eye level was a sign reading “GRACE is enough”. The sign was made by a dear friend and given to me when my world collapsed a year and a half ago. 

  Looking at the sign, I remembered all that the word GRACE has come to mean to me: God’s grace is goodness and love. It’s mercy where mercy is undeserved. It’s being willing to publicly interact with someone who may not be esteemed in the eyes of some. God’s grace is sacrifice; it requires action.  

Pressed against the door jam, I was hit with thousands of memories from the last year and half. Each one reminding me that nothing is permanent and God’s grace is always enough to see me through. Even in this painful and ridiculous situation, God’s grace is enough. 

God’s grace showed up when I was paralyzed on the rocks and a neighbor took the time to walk across the street. 

God’s grace showed up in my coworker friends who started texting me as soon as they heard I was down, and it showed up through each call from my children. 

God’s grace showed up through the chiropractor who loaned us a back brace that our insurance wouldn’t cover, and it showed up in the sweet friend who rushed over with essential oils for the pain.  

Finally, God’s grace showed up through my husband. The man who slept on the couch so I wouldn’t have to be alone in the front of the house. The man who washed my hair, bathed my body, helped me dress, and has helped me take every single step over the last two days. The kindness and servitude of my husband has left me with so much gratitude that counting my five blessings will be all too easy this week. Even when I’m five feet from the toilet. 

Grief · spiritual growth

Confessions of a Flawed Mommy

I have a confession to make: I was a flawed Mommy. There is probably a litany of stories to prove it, but I saw something online today, and it prompted the memory of two specific events that occurred during my flawed Mommy years. The incidents I am about to share took place over the course of two days in 1995:

  • On the night of January 30th, 1995 I put my 19-month-old daughter to bed without sheets or bumper pads in her crib.
  • On the morning of January 31st, 1995 I used a baby blanket to prop up a bottle for my 8-month-old son when he woke at 5:30AM.

There it is. Two shameful and embarrassing truths about the kind of Mommy I was twenty years ago.

It might seem odd to some that I remember these specific incidents, but because of the events that occurred through that night and into the morning, I have lived a long time knowing that following my instincts with these two shameful things placed me and my daughter in our destined places in the wee hours of the morning on January 31st.

Let’s back-up to earlier in the day on January 30th. It starts when I placed my daughter’s bunny rabbit bedding in the washing machine in the garage. After tossing her sheets and her bumper pads in the machine, I went about the business of being a Mommy to my 5-year-old daughter, my 4-year-old son, my toddler daughter, and my baby boy who was just 10 and a half months behind his sister in age. (Yes, you read that correctly.) I guess you could say my hands were full.


FullSizeRender(22)Back then, my husband and I spent a lot of time on the floor. Playing with Barbies and “toy guys”, wrestling and reading, helping someone put on their shoes, or changing a diaper. We lived in a modest three bedroom home, and each of the kids’ rooms held one bed and one crib. The boy’s room was a primary colored den of Legos and Hot Wheels, while the girl’s room was a pastel princess palace with patchwork quilts and bunny rabbits.

When evening came, we went through the bedtime rituals and everything was status quo, until I saw my daughter’s unmade crib. Remembering that her bedding was wet in the washing machine, but desperate for a few hours of grown up time with my husband, I placed a blanket on the mattress and put my toddler in her crib.

A few hours later my toddler daughter started to fuss. Now, there is nothing unusual about a fussy child at bedtime—but for this toddler—it was unheard of. The toddler was Molly, and she was born prematurely at 35 weeks with a brain malformation called Dandy Walker. What that means in simple terms is that the back section of her brain, the cerebellum, did not form. Where the cerebellum would have been there was extra cerebral spinal fluid.

Diagnosed in-utero, Molly was greeted by a family ready to love her, which was only about the easiest task any of us ever had to face. She was agreeable, charming, and stunningly beautiful. She would eat whatever she was offered, play easily with her siblings or alone, and she had a smile that would stop strangers. Despite the lack of a cerebellum, her gross and fine motor skills developed with only a slight delay.

Because Molly was born prematurely, she had a preference for sleeping; even as an infant she preferred sleeping to eating. It’s very common among premies. When I first brought her home from the hospital I would set an alarm and wake her for feedings to ensure that she was getting the necessary calories to thrive. As she grew stronger, her love of sleep never subsided. That’s what made her restless behavior unusual; my child who had always been a great sleeper was uncomfortable and shifting in her crib.

I remember the shame I felt about her shuffling around in a crib with no sheets and no bumper pads. I remember believing that the absence of those items made me slightly unfit as her Mommy. I remember being concerned that Molly’s fussing might wake her sister, who had to be well rested for Kindergarten the next morning; I remember judging myself for not having more money. I remember silently belittling myself and my husband for not making more money so that we could have a bigger home and babies and grade school children would not have to share rooms.

To this day, some twenty years later, I don’t know which feeling led me to go in and get her out of that crib and bring her into my bed. Was it shame or guilt?

When I went in to check on Molly, one of her arms had slid between the bars of the crib and her head was pressed against the hard rails. I pulled her up and out and brought her into bed with her Daddy and me. It was a long and restless night as Molly continued to fuss. I turned on the light, and when I looked in her eyes, I knew something was off. I told my husband we needed to take her to the doctor in the morning. The decision to wait until morning would haunt me for years. Even as I type this I wonder how many people are whispering, “Why didn’t you go right then? Why did you wait?”

At 5:30AM, Molly’s little brother woke in his crib. When I heard him, I turned my head toward my husband’s side of the bed to wake him. I planned on asking him to make a bottle for our 8-month-old son, but my husband was gone. He had moved out to the couch to give us some room. I carried Molly out to where my husband lay sleeping and woke him enough to hand her over, and then I went into the kitchen and made a bottle for my baby son. I took the bottle into the primary colored room and, without hesitation, I used one of his blankets to prop his bottle. I watched as his chubby little hands settled around it and held it in place.

Yes, I was tired. No, it wasn’t the first time. But it is the time I remember, because it is the time that I not only wanted to get back into bed, but I wanted to get my daughter back into my arms.

And again, twenty years beyond that morning, I don’t know completely why I chose to prop my baby boy’s bottle. Was it exhaustion or fear? Or was it the Spirit of God, alive in me and prompting me to pull Molly closer to my heart in her final hours?

All I know for certain is that because of the choices made by this flawed Mommy, the morning that my daughter died, she was lying in my arms. At around 6:30 AM, Molly’s labored breathing ceased. No longer fighting for sleep, she was eased her into her next life. My little girl went directly from the arms of her Mommy to the arms of her Savior.

Should I have taken her to the hospital in the middle of the night? It was a haunting thought. Months later that question led me back to the hospital where Molly had been taken by ambulance and pronounced dead. I met with the nurse who had been working the morning Molly had died, and she walked me through what would have happened had we come to the hospital during the night. The nurse told me that arriving earlier wouldn’t have stopped what was already happening. The weight of a cerebral fluid cyst had settled on Molly’s brain stem, if she had been brought to the hospital in the night, Molly would have been placed on life support. By the time they would have diagnosed what was happening, it would have been too late. My husband and I would have had to decide whether or not we should keep her on life support.

Molly was leaving on the morning of January 31st whether she was lying in a hospital bed, in her crib surrounded by the coziest bunny bedding on earth, or nestled securely on her Mommy’s chest. I am thankful that due to my “failures” as a parent, it was the latter.

This morning my friend, who is a Mommy to three littles, shared this post on Facebook:

It takes guts and confidence to stare the possibility of people looking down on you in the face and do what’s best for your family sometimes. Especially in the mommy world! Today I was reminded that the most important thing my kids need is simply ME. Everything else is secondary. I am their first impression of how God loves them and if I am distracted by the long list of people’s opinions on what is best for my children then I’m stressed. When I am stressed, I am less available to my kids. -Candice Hernandez

Amid the comments of encouragement to my friend, I read about the movement, End Mommy Wars, started by Similac.

  • Think before you speak. Better yet, say nothing.
  • Check your eye roll. And the raised eyebrow.
  • Respect the mom. Even if you’re a different kind of mom.


I desire this for all the Mommies. Even though I am no longer a Mommy, my daughter is raising my granddaughter, and I know that she has days where she feels like a flawed Mommy. But I know some things that she may not have learned yet. I know that most Mommies are too hard on themselves, and I’ve lived long enough to see “bad” choices turned into something beautiful. What feels like a failure may be a gift, and sometimes the greatest blessing comes to us because of a load of wet bedding in the washer.

I believe that we are all called to love one another, but eye rolling and raised eyebrows are the opposite of love. My daughter means more to me than life itself, so the idea of ending Mommy-bullying is dearer to me than ever.


Grief · spiritual growth

Give Me the Strange Life: Johnny’s Legacy

dianette and johnnyOn the first day of October the world lost some of its beauty when 23-year-old Johnny Strange died in a wingsuit accident. The young man had been climbing and jumping his entire life. He holds the world record as the youngest person to have ever climbed all Seven of the World’s Summits. I never met Johnny Strange and were it not for Johnny’s Mother and our Facebook connection, I might not have known about his adventures. Johnny’s Mother, Dianette Wells is an old friend from High School, and we (like millions of other adults) have reconnected over the years through social media.

Dianette was a year behind me in High School, but miles ahead of me in enthusiasm, belief and confidence. She was a bundle of perkiness in a cheer-leading uniform, with radiant skin and a fire beneath her intelligent eyes. Being a year ahead of Dianette gave me some sway at the time, and she allowed me that leverage of faux maturity despite my utter failures.

Once we reconnected via Facebook I wasn’t surprised to see that Dianette had only improved over time, her confidence spilling into everything she touched.  She’s an activist in her community, fighting for the humane treatment of all animals, including strays and sea life. She’s consistent and present. Her pictures and updates show an authentic woman climbing, hiking, and embracing life. Even now in her grieving–Dianette does so with grace, transparency, and presence of mind.

Knowing these things about Dianette, I wasn’t surprised by the things I learned about her son when I read his eulogy. The tribute was written and read aloud by his father, Brian Strange at Johnny’s Memorial service earlier this week. I am honored to share it with you, as it is easily one of the most beautiful statements of life that I have read in a very long time.

johnny1 “I stood on top of the world with my son. I sat with him and the King of Bhutan—a small nation in the Himalayas—as we planned adventures to motivate the youth of that country. I even had the “pleasure”……. of representing him as an attorney on the well publicized car surfing charges. But THIS is the day. . . THIS is the day I prayed would never come.

On behalf of his mother Dianette and his sisters Brianna and MacKenna, and his step mother Shamra, his brother Ashton and his little sister Ava, I want to express what we feel to those who celebrate my son Johnny’s life with us here today. I have been worried about Johnny since the day he was born. Once when Johnny was four, he leaped off the back of the couch yelling that he could fly. He smashed his forehead on the floor. After we rushed to the hospital, while waiting for the doctor, Johnny proceded to head-but the gurney requiring yet another set of stitches.

When Johnny was 12, I had my climbing bags laid out all over the living room on my way to Antarctica. Johnny asked me if he could come. Even knowing that he would never be able to summit and that might mean I would not either; I could not give up the opportunity to take my 12 year old boy to Antarctica. Johnny went straight up the mountain in temperatures at time negative 40 F and summited Mount Vinson at age 12. He was the youngest to ever summit and, since you now have to be 16 to even try, the youngest for all time. Johnny and I went on to climb 6 of the Seven Summits together including Aconcagua in Argentina twice because we went down the mountain and came right back up after fixing some frost bite. We spent two months on Mount Everest before summiting together on May 22, 2009, making Johnny the youngest to climb the Seven Summits at the time.

johnny2What I learned and observed about my teenage Johnny through the two months we spent together in a tent in Nepal—and numerous other adventures across the world we shared while he was growing up—and what most of you already know, is that Johnny was a ball of boundless energy—boundless energy coupled with inspiration, determination, and love for his family. Johnny was always on our side. And he was also on the side of those less fortunate in all the countries we visited together. The poverty and the unjust treatment of good people upset him deeply. Johnny was enraged by the imperfection of human justice, by governments and people who just stood by, unwilling to stand up against the slaughter of innocent people. I will never forget the conversation I had a few years ago with Johnny and his step-mother Shamra about why we would not fund a trip to arm Johnny so he could parachute in and single-handedly kill Joseph Kony.

Johnny refused to accept what SO many of us already had accepted. Things like: we can’t stop genocide, we can’t find a cure for Parkinson’s, we can’t skateboard at 100 mph down Kanan Road and even . . . human beings can’t fly like birds. For all the things that most people accept as limits, Johnny by his force of nature had to try, to PUSH, to REACH for.

This brought many clashes at home and personally it terrified me. Johnny rejected the idea of what most would consider a normal life, a safe life. That is not who he was or what he wanted, and he refused to live that way. I wished and tried in numerous ways to make him compromise, to get him to live a normal life. But Johnny knew and accepted the risks. Even if I did not.

Johnny also accepted the disapproval of those who want a safe and secure existence, those not willing or not able to push the boundaries. That was just not for Johnny. As his father, I just could never accept that.

FullSizeRender(20)When I went to pick up my son’s body in Switzerland, I met the young man Alex who was with him on his last adventure. Shamra and I spent some time with Alex and climbed up the mountain where Johnny jumped. As I looked over what is truly one of the more beautiful views in the world, I listened to Alex speak about wingsuit flying in a way I could never listen to Johnny because I refused to hear it. Alex explained that to fly in a wingsuit made him feel almost superhuman. He could soar over trees and so close to the ground that he could high five you. And as I looked down the mountain, I could envision Johnny on that flight. And Alex explained that once you have had that feeling, you can never go back to a normal life. And even after watching Johnny’s tragic accident, making Johnny his 6th friend to die while flying, Alex told us with tears in his eyes that he would never stop. At that moment, I finally began to understand Johnny’s passion.

Flying was not just about danger or thrill seeking, it was about freedom. Freedom of Spirit. Flying was the time Johnny felt most alive, most present and most connected to the universe.

You see, Johnny was not raised going to church. The mountains were his church and the presence and the connection of flight were his prayer. If Johnny had a religion, it would be to not accept limits—to refuse to accept injustice as a way of life or disease as inevitable.

FullSizeRender(17)It has been said that, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.”

I know not why my son was taken from me and my family at the age of 23. He had so much more to do, so many more fights to take on, so many more mountains to climb and fly off of.

But in those 23 years, his Spirit and his Courage and his Smile touched so many people—people from Antarctica to Russia, from to Nepal to Patagonia, from to the North Pole to the South. Johnny loved life and he loved all of you here today.

While I am not and would not encourage young people to go wingsuit flying off mountain tops—I do ask that you choose courage over fear, and to live a life of adventure, purpose and passion and chose a life of love over the love of ease.

There are so many things on this planet worth fighting for. We should, like Johnny, believe in the limitless of who we are and in the possibility of what we can accomplish. I hope that will be the legacy of Johnny Strange.”


spiritual growth · Uncategorized

I Beg Your Pardon, I Never Promised You a Pumpkin Garden

So Fall is here, technically it arrived about a week ago, but for those of us who don’t have an alarm on our phones alerting us to its arrival on September 22, the season doesn’t arrive until the calendar flips to the month with the orange lettering. There are some things you should just wait for. Like Fall. And Christmas. And God’s promises to be fulfilled when it seems like maybe He has forgotten you, and you are sitting in the waiting room, and you begin to wonder if God left the building with a friend for a round of golf and a craft beer.

Psalm 27:13-14 has become a poignant verse for my husband and me over this year and last. It talks about waiting:

“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

Photo_6The verse was quoted to my husband and I when we met with the senior pastor of a large church in California following the announcement of my affair and the firing of my husband from his ministerial position. We went to the home of this pastor seeking advice and encouragement at one of the scariest times in our marriage. (Not, THE scariest time in our marriage…just one of them. Trust me, affairs may be bad news but, now that we are a little further away from it, my husband and I would both contest that burying our 19-month-old little girl was far more frightening).

When Pastor Chuck first said the verse I had images congruent with the TV show, The Walking Dead. My mind didn’t capture “the land of the living” without also imagining “the land of the no longer living”. My eyes rose from my sweaty glass of ice water, and looked across the sunny patio with a quizzical grimace. Pastor Chuck responded to the unspoken inquiry explaining that to see God’s goodness in the land of the living meant that we wouldn’t have to wait until we arrived in Heaven to see how God would use our terrible situation for good. We didn’t have to wait until the afterlife to have an understanding that everything was going to be okay. If we could be strong, wait for the Lord, and trust in His promises, we would see the hand of God and witness the unfolding of His plans while we were still alive on planet Earth.

This morning I happened across another verse that spoke of God’s promises:

“And because of His glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises.” 2 Peter 1:4

Photo_4He has given us precious promises. Wow. That lovely truth started my mind spinning to the variety of places claiming God’s promises. I remember hearing a hymn instructing me to stand on the promises of God. I’ve read where Corrie Ten Boom said “Let God’s promises shine on your problems”. And I once saw a really pretty meme with a sunset and a barn that said “God’s promises are like the stars; the darker the night the brighter they shine.” It has to be true if it has a sunset and barn, right?

But aside from accepting that God’s promises are true, my real question was, “What are His promises?” Because if I am waiting for something, I want to know what it looks like.

Photo_2As I began to pray, one thing became clear. I could see with clarity all the promises that are not from God. He never promised a lot of things that I hope for. God never promised that my vitamins would absorb, that the dog’s vet bill would be less than I made in tips last night, or that my hair color would last. He never promised that I wouldn’t need two new tires when it’s most inconvenient, or that Bank of America would wave their policies for loan approval. God didn’t promise that that your child’s self esteem would be high, or your interest rates low. He didn’t promise that your Mother-in-Law would be kind, that your neighbors would be friendly, or that you would conceive a child. He didn’t promise that our jobs would be fulfilling, that we would be cancer free, or that babies wouldn’t die. God never promised that there wouldn’t continue to be wrongful executions. He didn’t promise that slavery would end. He didn’t promise that we would no longer see injustice in our homes, our work places, our country and our world. He didn’t promise a lot of things I hope for.

PhotoSo what did he promise?

God promised that on our very worst day, He would be at His very best to conquer the demons who work to depress and diminish our spirits. God promised power to the weak and rest for the weary. He promised we would soar like eagles, not because our situation would change, but because our souls could be free.

And why should I care?

Because ultimately our desires sit on two different lists. The first set is the list of things that will show me and others that I’ve lived a righteous life. It can look material for some, but it’s not just about accumulating cars and houses. This is the list where you have a purpose in your job. It’s the list where you make a difference because you are using your gift; where the free will of others is significantly impacted by your influence. It’s the list where justice wins, sickness vanishes, and evil is revealed. It’s a good list, desirable indeed. The second list is what God does when those things don’t happen. It’s repetitive, but here goes: it’s finding peace and allowing things to be well with your soul when none of the things on the first list are happening.

Photo_1We are dependent on the second list because that is God’s promise. While the first list is glorious and certainly full of things I wouldn’t turn away, do you realize what happens when we have the first list without the second? If we were to receive all the things that we think we want, and not be clinging to God’s promise to sustain us when problems come knocking, do you know what we’d be? We would be a bunch of middle class Americans whining about all the other promises that were not fulfilled. In other words, to have the first set of promises fulfilled takes us exactly where we are today.

But why can’t I have both?

Because you’d stop caring about the second list. God knows us. And He knows what we can handle and what we cannot. And in as much as we believe that we were made to do great things, God knows that there are greater things than the achievements of man. The peace you find in Him pleases Him. Oh, you’ll still do great things, it just might be measured differently than you imagined. That’s a promise.